Sunday, 11 July 2010

On Realising That All Is Not Doom & Gloom

It seems that my posts have been a little pessismistic and bitter of late. I can't hide the fact that I am naturally inclined towards melancholy, bitterness and the foulest of bad moods, but at the same time I don't want you to think that I'm always such a miserable bastard.

On Friday I went to the Barbican Centre to see Catalyst Theatre's Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. As you can imagine, it's not the most joyful of stories - the man led a grim, miserable life. It was however, an absolutely fantastic production. Combine the funky steampunk costumes, gothic make-up and frequent nods to Poe's poetry and stories with my leaning towards the gloomier side of life, and it's clear this was always going to be something I'd love.

Despite the gothic feast that was Nevermore, Friday wasn't all doom and gloom. Before getting to the Barbican, N and myself stopped off in Postman's Park, a five minute walk away from St Paul's Cathedral. I'd never been before, although those of you who have seen the film Closer may recognise it. It was a graveyard until the late 1800s, when it was converted to a public park [you can still see some of the old gravestones stacked up around the edge]. It's a beautiful space surrounded on all sides by high buildings - an oasis in the middle of the City.

In 1900 it became home to George Frederic Watts' Memorial To Heroic Self Sacrifice. Watts had long campaigned for a monument to the heroic deeds of ordinary people - in a city where you can barely turn a corner without coming face-to-face with a commemoration of military victory or a statue of a dead monarch, this was an unusual request. However, with considerable determination, he got his way - one wall of the park is taken up by a memorial to ordinary people who gave their lives in order to save another's - and it's beautiful. Each person has a ceramic plaque with their name, age, the date they died and the manner in which it happened. It's quite an emotional read that includes a servant saving her master's children from a burning building, an actress using her own dress to put out the flames engulfing her co-star's clothes and a little boy saving his brother from being run over

Admittedly this may sound quite depressing, but it had the opposite effect on me. In this day and age it's all too easy to look after number one, to keep your head down, eyes forward and never spare a thought for anyone else. Sometimes, it's nice to be reminded that there is more to life than that - that there are people out there who will risk everything for someone else. I walked away from Postman's Park with a refreshed view of the society I live in, a new respect for humanity and, unusually, a smile on my face.


  1. What a lovely post.

    I'm prone to melancholy quite a bit as well. I find the idea of a memorial to heroic self sacrifice a wonderful- and beautiful- idea. It does make me sad to think of the heroes lost, but it also makes me (like you) glad of the reminder that it's acts like these that balance out the gloom with a burst of sunbeams.

  2. This is an enchanting post. Thanks for this.

    All the best, Boonsong

  3. @ Risha - you hit the nail on the head, as usual. It does seem depressing at first, but has the opposite effect in the end. I recommend it!

    @ Boonsong - no, thank you! What a compliment!

  4. Cousin TbR, I so agree with Boonsong. As always, your passion about stuff amazes me.